It is inspiring to know the obstacles that some health care workers will scale to gain the knowledge required to help communities obtain better health.
Take Jacob Nji’s story for example. A nurse in Cameroon, Jacob works at the Mbingo Baptist Hospital. The hospital serves a large local population as well as patients who travel from all over the country for care. Diabetes is becoming a larger problem in Cameroon, so the hospital hired Jacob as a diabetes nurse educator.
“The challenges I face in my community are few diabetes educators, limited resources to meet the needs for diabetes care, no adequate home visits due to lack of transportation or means of communication and there is no full compliance of medicines due to out of pocket costs,” Jacob said. “We need the help to train more diabetes educators.”
With little formal training in diabetes care, Jacob knew he needed more expertise to lead the fight against diabetes in his community. He immersed himself in diabetes education textbooks and set his sights on completing Project HOPE’s online international diabetes-educator program, IDEEL.
Endorsed by the International Diabetes Federation, Project HOPE’s IDEEL, the India Diabetes Educator E-Learning program is designed as a self-paced, online learning program, which is enhanced by a minimum 15-day clinical internship under the guidance of an endocrinologist and a diabetes educator. For Jacob, in Cameroon (not India), the course posed two challenges: Internet access is difficult outside the hospital setting, and because HOPE’s program was based in India, setting up the required internship to complete the course was also a hurdle.
But Jacob was not deterred. To complete his course, he at times copied each course web page by hand onto paper, in order to facilitate his ongoing study at home. With support from HOPE, he was able to set up an internship.
“I recently had the opportunity to visit Mr. Nji at for a couple weeks at the Mbingo Baptist Hospital and was absolutely amazed at his self-initiative and expertise in diabetes care,” said Dr. Gregory Kline, Staff Endocrinologist, Alberta Health Services Clinical Associate Professor, Medicine/Endocrinology University of Calgary. “Mr. Nji sees most of the inpatients with diabetes for counseling about their disease and provision of education for management. He then works to bring the patients into ongoing outpatient diabetes care.”
Jacob has created his own locally and culturally specific resources for diabetes teaching and is effective in reaching patients since he is so well acquainted with the realities of life in the Cameroonian community. “One of his biggest tasks in Cameroon is to convince patients of the need for ongoing diabetes care and follow up,” added Dr. Kline. “For many of these patients, regular filling of prescriptions, regular adherence to therapy and periodic attendance at the diabetes clinic (while asymptomatic) is extremely challenging and yet Mr. Nji has been able to create a local diabetes register where he can track patients and their diabetes control. Without question, we need a lot more people like Mr. Nji!”
Jacob is using the opportunity of World Diabetes Day, to spread diabetes awareness in his community. “I will be involved in a talk over local community radio about diabetes, I have organized a campaign on diabetes awareness for communities, schools, churches, local markets and at the hospital, and I have planned a 2km walk where I will carry placards and give out key messages about diabetes,” Jacob said. “With assistance of Mbingo Baptist Hospital, we will also provide free blood glucose, weight, and blood pressure measurement. On World Diabetes Day 2015, my community’s campaign message reached 12,613 people. We hope to reach more this year.”
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